COVID-19 Contact Guidance

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If you were told that you’re a close contact of someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19, you should quarantine at home and monitor for symptoms for 14 days since you were last exposed. There are options to shorten quarantine.  

Fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered from COVID-19 within the last 90 days do not have to quarantine at home but should monitor for symptoms and wear a mask indoors (and outdoors in settings where social distancing cannot be maintained) for 14 days.

Fully vaccinated people who have been in close contact to someone with COVID-19 should seek testing 5-7 days after the exposure.

Informational flyer for persons who have had close contact with a COVID-19 case (PDF)

Also available in Spanish & Simplified Chinese


What does it mean to be a close contact of someone with COVID-19?

 A close contact is defined as someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person (who tested positive for COVID-19 or has COVID-19 symptoms) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. In addition, close contacts include people who provide care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19; people who had direct physical contact with the infected person (e.g. hugged or kissed them); people who shared eating and drinking utensils (forks, spoons, cups or glasses) with the sick person; and people who were sneezed or coughed on by someone with COVID-19.

In childcare and school indoors settings, a close contact is defined as: 

  • anyone within 3 feet of an infected person or 
  • someone not wearing a mask within 3-6 feet of an infected person 

for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for those without symptoms, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the person with COVID-19 is isolated. 
 
NOTE: This only pertains to child to child or student to student interactions. Adult interactions or adult to child/student interactions are still held to the within six (6) foot condition regardless of whether or not a mask is worn.

This close contact definition is based on how the virus is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose. That is why it is so important to wash your hands often and clean frequently touched surfaces at least daily.

What is quarantine?

Quarantine is used to separate people who are close contacts of someone with a contagious disease, like COVID-19, from others for a period of time to see if they become infected. This is to break the cycle and prevent the spread of disease. When someone is quarantining, they should stay home and avoid contact with other people until the quarantine period is over. This includes avoiding contact with people in their household as much as it is possible.

For COVID-19, the quarantine period is 14 days from the time of last exposure to the person with the disease. For those who live in the same house as someone who has COVID-19, they should continue to quarantine until 14 days after the date the person with COVID-19 has completed their isolation, which is usually 10 days. CDC provides guidance on how to determine when isolation should end.

If you are a close contact to someone who had COVID-19 and were told to quarantine, DHEC recommends you get tested as soon as possible if you have any symptoms. If you have no symptoms, there are options to shorten quarantine. Please refer to updated quarantine guidance for Options to Shorten Quarantine for COVID-19 Schedule. Remember that if you follow one of these options, you should still monitor for symptoms and wear a mask when around others until day 14.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you must isolate to limit the spread of this illness and follow the guidance for persons who have tested positive for COVID-19.

*Fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered from COVID-19 within the last 90 days are not asked to quarantine, but are recommended to wear a mask in indoor settings and monitor for symptoms for 14 days following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.  (See below - Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19)

I was in the same room/building as someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but not in close contact with him/her. What should I do?

If you were NOT closer than 6 feet to someone with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or longer over a 24-hour period, your risk of catching the virus from that person is low. Continue to follow the general precautions, including physical distancing, washing your hands often, and wearing a face mask while in confined public places. If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, isolate at home, avoid others, and get tested as soon as possible. Call your doctor or other healthcare provider to discuss evaluation, testing and, if needed, treatments for COVID-19.

I was a close contact to someone who is sick but not tested for COVID-19. What should I do?

If you were around someone while they had symptoms, like fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus or another respiratory virus that causes similar symptoms, like the flu or the common cold. You should continue to practice physical distancing, wash your hands often, wear a face mask while in confined public places and monitor for symptoms for 14 days after your last exposure.

If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, you should isolate at home and avoid contact with other people. Call your doctor or other healthcare provider to discuss evaluation, testing and, if needed, treatments for COVID-19. You may also seek telehealth evaluation and find testing site resources on DHEC’s website.

More information on types of COVID-19 testing and what the results mean are available here.

Fully Vaccinated* persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 do the following.

If experiencing symptoms

  • Get tested and
  • Isolate from others

    o   Until a negative test result, or

    o   For 10 days from when symptoms started, symptoms have improved and fever free for 24 hours without the use of Tylenol or a fever reducer. 

  • Consult with your healthcare provider or telehealth.
  • Seek care if needed.

If not experiencing symptoms

  • You do not need to quarantine.
  • Get tested 5-7 days following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
  • Wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure.
  • Monitor for symptoms for 14 days after exposure to the person with COVID-19.

Those testing positive should follow CDC’s current isolation guidelines.

*NOTE: People are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)
Persons who do not meet the above criteria should follow the guidance for unvaccinated people. 

Persons who do not meet the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

For persons previously diagnosed with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who are not experiencing symptoms after recovery

  • Re-infection is rare within 90 days of prior infection.
  • For this reason, retesting or quarantine is not routinely recommended if another exposure occurs or might have occurred within 90 days after the date symptoms started from the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure.
  • Monitor for symptoms for 14 days after exposure to the person with COVID-19.

For persons who develop new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during the 90 days following recovery from a previous case of COVID-19

  • Isolate from others and consult with your healthcare provider.
  • If an alternative cause for symptoms cannot be readily identified by a healthcare provider, then you might need re-testing.
  • Consultation with an infectious disease expert is recommended, especially in the event that symptoms develop within 14 days after close contact with a person infected with SARS-CoV-2.
  • Persons being evaluated for reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 or any potential transmissible respiratory infection should be isolated under recommended precautions before and during evaluation.
  • If reinfection is confirmed or remains suspected, continue isolation

    o   For 10 days from symptom onset, and

    o Symptoms have improved, and

    o Fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of Tylenol or a fever reducer.

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Community Survey COVID-19